Andy Karl and Mary Faber in Slut
(Photo © Carol Rosegg)
Andy Karl and Mary Faber in Slut
(Photo © Carol Rosegg)
There's a clever, tuneful revue about life and love in New York on the stage of the American Theater of Actors. The problem is that it's trapped inside Slut, a musical with a plot so inconsequential that it makes the The Great American Trailer Park Musical seem like War and Peace and with leading characters so paper-thin, you couldn't wrap a CD with them.

This isn't to say that you won't find yourself smiling a lot at Slut. But, while doing so, you may also find yourself wondering why Ben Winters, who wrote the show's book and lyrics (along with composer Stephen Sislen) even bothered to create such a flimsy story. Are we supposed to care at all about Adam (Andy Karl), the self-described slut of the title, a handsome rich kid whose only goal in life is to bed as many different women in as many different countries as possible? Is there any real question as to whether Adam's nice-guy childhood pal "Doctor" Dan (Jim Stanek) will live happily ever after with fledgling rock star Delia (Jenn Colella), even though he temporarily turns into a modern-day Mr. Hyde after learning that Adam and Delia shared a drunken night of passion? Are we really supposed to laugh at Adam's name for the boat on which he sails away, the H.M.S. Donkey Balls?

On top of everything else, the show's best songs don't even belong to this troubled threesome. The fabulous Harriett D. Foy -- in the role of earthy bartender Lily -- stops the show with "Lower the Bar," a brilliantly sardonic number about the positive side of having few expectations. (It's a song that will be performed for years to come in cabarets and audition halls everywhere.) Just seconds later, Foy returns in a different guise as a high-class if classless suburban mom who proclaims that honesty is the best policy -- especially when it comes to admitting adultery -- in the raunchy "True Love." (She's well matched by Kevin Pariseau, who plays her husband and also earns lots of laughs in his other roles of a dim-witted sailor and perpetual drunk.) And one has to be impressed by how many different euphemisms for impotence Winters has written into the group number "One Adam at a Time."

Smoothly directed by Gordon Greenberg, with decent-enough choreography by Warren Carlyle, Slut has been given a top-notch, small-scale production. Scenic designer Beowulf Borrit has essentially turned the entire ATA into a bar, with an enormous display of empty liquor bottles as a striking backdrop -- one that splits in half at an opportune moment -- and ingenious hiding spots for the two other major set pieces. Anne Kennedy's costumes are spot-on, especially those for the excellent supporting cast. The delightful Mary Faber and Amanda Watkins shine as Delia's two best friends (and assorted other ditzy women), while the priceless David Josefsberg delights the audience as J-Dogg (a.k.a. Josh), a nice Jewish boy who acts like a rapper, and as Delia's super-slimy, spelling-challenged, sex-starved record producer Buddy.

Given how little they have to work with, one can't fully blame the leads for failing to make their characters three-dimensional. Karl swaggers effectively, showing off both his well-toned chest and his impressive singing voice. Stanek is enormously appealing in a puppy-doggish way. Colella's impassioned belting never fails to amaze, though her natural hard edges are arguably better suited to the role of the slutty Trailer Park stripper Pippi, which she previously played but which is now being essayed by Karl's real-life wife, the wonderful Orfeh.

It's true that many of our most beloved musicals have fairly lightweight storylines; about Oklahoma!, a New York Times critic once wagged, "What's the plot? It ain't got?" Still, Slut is slight, even by that yardstick. Further story and character development might turn it from a forgettable if pleasurable one-night stand into a show with which one would want to have a more lasting relationship.